The (prescription) drug cartel in the US

It is no secret that many prescription drugs are extremely expensive. Much of the price is not due to the actual cost of manufacture but due to the companies that produced them seeking to recoup the costs of their research and development and marketing investment plus their profit margin. The difficult question is how to balance the legitimate needs of the drug companies to stay in business while preventing them from simply gouging sick people for profit. What seems to be the case, at least in the US, is that the insatiable desire for profits by the drug companies are the main driver of the rapidly increasing prices. Timothy Noah says that drug companies make huge profits while artificially inflating the cost of bringing new drugs to market. [Read more...]

The ‘Grand Bargain’ hoax

If the debt ceiling is raised and the government is opened, get ready for more talk of the need for a ‘Grand Bargain’ to cut spending on earned benefits (I refuse to call them by the common but misleading name of entitlements) and other programs that benefit the less well-off in order to rescue the country from the pending disaster caused by runaway debt.

But all that talk is a fraud. [Read more...]

Some debt limit trivia

Thanks to this interminable and absurd government shut down and the possible debt ceiling breach, I have learned more about the functioning of government finances that I ever thought I would.

One of the interesting bits of trivia is that although I have been reporting that the current debt ceiling set on May 19, 2013 is $16.7 trillion, it turns out that the figure is more precise than that. The actual figure, believe it or not, is specified down to the last cent: $16,699,421,095,673.60 (Table III-C). [Read more...]

Millennials are pretty much like every other generation

The so-called millennial generation in the US is the focus of much media attention, much of it negative, decrying them as whiny, praise-seeking, self-absorbed, slaves to social network technology, and having a sense of entitlement. But a new survey finds that as they progress towards adulthood, they display many of the same characteristics as the generations that came before. [Read more...]

Is this any way to run the world’s largest economy?

What the hell is going on in Congress?

I have been (kind of) following the posturing that has been going on over the efforts to pass a continuing resolution bill by October 1. The normal budgetary process of passing the 12 appropriation bills to fund the government for the next fiscal year has long since broken down. In its place we now have the practice of passing continuing resolutions at the last minute that essentially says that we continue doing what was done the previous year. The idea of the budget being also a planning document that determines the priorities for the coming year has gone out the window and we seem to have entered a Groundhog Day world where each year repeats the previous one, at least in budgetary terms. In fact, we should really consider this the new normal, since the chances of Congress ever getting its act together enough to do its most basic function, pass a budget, seem increasingly remote. [Read more...]